Wednesday, December 19, 2012

St. Augustine, Florida; “The Sun Never Sets on a DESCO Boat” - 1973.

“The Sun Never Sets on a DESCO Boat” was the motto of the world’s largest producer of fishing trawlers, DESCO of St. Augustine, Florida.
In the 1970s DESCO was St. Augustine’s number one employer and had prospective buyers eagerly waiting in line, cash in hand, to take delivery.
 In the photo the 78 foot wooden Calypso along with another DESCO trawler had just completed their passage from St. Augustine to Tampa Bay traveling nearly 500 nautical miles; first down the east coast of Florida to Key West and then north up the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa.  The passage took 72 hours, dock to dock. Navigational equipment was basic on these vessels and consisted of a compass and depth recorder…there was no autopilot so it was 100% hands on at the helm.

Pictured on the Calypso are Captain Lloyd Wainright and Jane Grimsrud. On the dock is the crew of the other vessel, Captain Dick Janson and Captain George Tappin. 

For more of this fascinating historical story read:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

End of the Mayan World - December 21st, 2012 – The shortest day of the year

The ancient Maya possessed the most advanced civilization in the Americas with astronomy, agriculture, mathematics, medicines, and a written history.

Above a Mayan shaman gazes into his crystal ball and envisions the coming destructive force of the zealous inquisition crazed Spanish conquistadors that would mark their doom. 

Today charlatans preaching gloom and disaster, not shamans, have stepped up to capitalize on the end of the Mayan long count calendar.

Charlatans never seem to run out of sycophantic sympathizers who march behind them like hoards of lemmings. The number of crank religions world wide today attest to this ever expanding phenomenon. 

[Above painting is a portion of a mural from the Valladolid, Yucatan municipal building.]

Recommended reading:

Final Report an archeologist excavates his past by Michael D. Coe Extensive tops in research, the ultimate in documentation with cutting edge facts, this is the very best of the lot.

Time Among the Maya by Ronald Wright, An eye opening look at the real Mayan people and places untouched by the outside world…excellent!

Yucatán’s Magic:Mérida Side Trips by John M. Grimsrud, Visit the places that tourists miss most in the Mayan world of Yucatan

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Augustine, Florida - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

St. Augustine, Florida - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings told the story of an isolated, rough, and untamed side of North Florida.
I was a grade school student when my teacher, Miss Currie, encouraged me to read Cross Creek and The Yearling. I enthusiastically read those two incredible books, which have haunted me ever after. 
Little did I know at the time that my destiny would ultimately lead me to St. Augustine and an encounter with the people depicted in those unforgettable books.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the author of Cross Creek and The Yearling, was born in 1896, and she began writing at age six. She submitted children's stories to newspapers until age 16 and won a writing prize at 15.
In 1918 she graduated with honors in English from the University of Wisconsin.
Her writing career took her to many places, and ultimately St. Augustine’s magical attraction drew her in.
In 1928 Marjorie bought a cottage and orange grove in rural Cross Creek, Florida. Her writing was inspired by that area’s rustic environment and untamed inhabitants. By 1930 two of her stories were published, in 1933 a novel, South Moon Under, led to the publishing of The Yearling in 1938. Marjorie received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1939 for her novel The Yearling. MGM then made a movie, and that made her famous.
Cross Creek, an autobiographical story of her interaction with neighbors also became a best-seller and a Book-of-the- month club selection.
The Rawlings’ St. Augustine, Florida, residence was in the Castle Warden Hotel; now the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum, which is located near St. Augustine’s historic Castillo de San Marcos.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings passed away in 1953 in St. Augustine, Florida.
The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp with her image in 2008.
Read more about this literary giant who called St. Augustine home, and  meet the people she depicted in her writing in Sailing to St. Augustine: Travels of Dursmirg, available in paperback and digital editions from online booksellers worldwide.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Peto to Mérida, Yucatan, Aboard One of the World’s Last Narrow Gauge Railroads

When we first visited the Yucatan in the early 1980s passenger trains were still one of the most important forms of transportation. The narrow gauge railroad joined the outlying towns and villages of Yucatan to Mérida. Other passenger trains, though not narrow gauge, joined Mérida with Campeche and Mexico City.

Lilo Linke visited Mérida in 1947 and described her adventures in her book Magic Yucatan.  Lilo made the trip on the narrow gauge rail from Mérida to Peto.  Lilo says of her visit to Peto:
The little train rattled along between henequen plantations and fields of Indian corn. Soon we were covered by the dust that blew in through the open windows. That jungles could be anywhere near was difficult to imagine. Wherever we stopped, fruit was offered for sale. In the afternoon we came to the end of the line, a village called Peto. A single long street led from the station to the market-square and the church.
We were forced to stay at a hotel. In fact we had the choice between two, and Señor Mendoza selected the one run by a toothless Chinese. It was rapidly getting dark—as always in the tropics about six o'clock—but I could make out in the fading light that the sheets on the tumbledown bed were extremely soiled.
I remembered how once in Turkey in similar circumstances the hotel-keeper had remarked that only four other people had so far used them. But the Chinaman raised no objection when I asked him to change them. Perhaps the lack of teeth made arguing difficult for him. He whipped off the offending sheets, and to my horror I saw three fat bugs scuttling for shelter. Unperturbed, he shuffled out of the room, to return with a single sheet that was as indistinguishable from the first as one Chinaman from another. With a deadpan face he smoothed it over the mattress.
I rushed off to Señor Mendoza's room. He looked at me over the rim of his spectacles when I explained my trouble. "I warned you,” he said. "Now listen: no luxury, all right; no comfort, all right; but no bugs either. I just can't stand them." He uttered a gentle sigh and scratched his head. "The other hotel is worse," he said. "It couldn't be," I replied firmly. "I told him to give you the best room in the house. You even got a wash-basin, he told me. Still, I'll buy you a hammock. What else do you need?"
Henequen hammocks are a Yucatan specialty, one of the few products manufactured locally. We got one for next to nothing in a shop piled with goods in which another Chinese sat behind a hurricane lamp. We also bought a straw hat, disinfectant soap, a spoon, and some toilet paper. The roll had been waiting for a customer a long time.”
This photo from the 1980s is of our departure from Mérida on the narrow gauge train.
Jane and I made the very same trip as Lilo Linke, and we, coincidentally, stayed in the very same hotel as author Lilo Linke…not for everybody!

Over the years, whenever we had out of town visitors we always made sure that they got the opportunity to experience the train excursion that was a mirror image of the previous century.
On our first trip to Peto, the conductor came to Jane and I and said; “I have worked on this train for over 20 years, and you two are the first foreigners that have ever ridden it to the end of the line.”
Experience Peto, Yucatan,  today and read  more of our adventures to the places that tourists miss most in our book
Yucatán’s Magic, Mérida Side Trips; Treasures of Mayab, available in paper and digital editions worldwide.